By fall, Henry and Catherine have moved to a wooden house on a mountain outside the village of Montreux. They pass a splendid life together, enjoying the company of Mr. Guttingen and his wife, who live downstairs, and taking frequent walks into the peaceful nearby villages. One day, after Catherine has her hair done in town, the couple goes out for a beer, which Catherine believes will help keep the baby small. Catherine has been increasingly worried about the baby’s size, since the doctor has warned her that she has a narrow pelvis. Again, Henry and Catherine discuss marriage. Catherine agrees to marry someday because it will make the child “legitimate,” but she prefers to talk about the sights that she hopes to see, such as Niagara Falls and the Golden Gate Bridge, when the marriage makes her an American.
Three days before Christmas, snow falls. Catherine asks Henry if he feels restless. He says no, though he does wonder about Rinaldi, the priest, and the men on the front. Catherine, suspecting that Henry might be restless, suggests that he change something to reinvigorate his life. He agrees to grow a beard. Catherine suggests that she cut her hair to make her look more like Henry, but Henry doesn’t like this idea. When she proposes that they try to fall asleep together at the same time, Henry is unable to and lies awake looking at Catherine and thinking for a long time.
By mid-January, Henry’s beard has come in fully. While out on a walk, he and Catherine stop at a dark, smoky inn. They relish their isolation and wonder if things will be spoiled when the “little brat” comes. Catherine says that she will cut her hair when she is thin again after the baby is born so that she can be “exciting” and Henry can fall in love with her all over again. He tells her that he loves her enough now and asks, “What do you want to do? Ruin me?”
In March, the couple moves to the town of Lausanne to be nearer to the hospital. They stay in a hotel there for three weeks. Catherine buys baby clothes, Henry exercises in the gym, and both feel that the baby will come soon and that therefore they should not lose any time together.
Around three o’clock one morning, Catherine goes into labor. Henry takes her to the hospital, where she is given a nightgown and a room. She encourages Henry to go out for breakfast, which he does. When he returns to the hospital, he finds that Catherine has been taken to the delivery room. He goes in to see her; the doctor stands by as Catherine inhales an anesthetic gas to get her through the painful contractions. Later that afternoon, when Henry returns from lunch, Catherine has become intoxicated from the gas and has made little progress in her labor. The doctor tells Henry that the best solution would be a Caesarean operation. Catherine suffers unbearable pain and pleads for more gas. Finally, they wheel her out on a stretcher to perform the operation. Henry watches the rain outside.
The doctor soon comes out with a baby boy, for whom Henry, strangely, has no feelings. Henry sees the doctor fussing over the child, but he rushes off to see Catherine without speaking to him. When Catherine asks about their son, Henry tells her that he is fine. The nurse gives him a quizzical look; ushering him outside, the nurse explains that the umbilical cord had strangled the child prior to birth.
The ending was good, but depressing.
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I personally thought it was okay.
It only got interesting for me towards the end.
I personally found the first half of the book a bit monotonous, and Hemingways distanced writing almost glacial. The second half of the book, particularly after the beginning of the Italian retreat, was far more involving with interesting reflections on war, life and death.
The last part made me shed a few tears, it was impetuous and expressed Henry´s desperation, and eventually human desperation, perfectly. I´m quite ambivalent about the book, but the last chapters are definitely worth reading!